Climate and Earth's Energy Flows

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle (Academic Journal)peer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Under equilibrium conditions, climate can be viewed in simple terms as the average energy pathways that incoming solar radiation takes before exiting the system in order to maintain overall energy balance. Similarly, future climate change will ultimately be determined by how the Earth's energy balance and average energy pathways change in response to external radiative forcings, such as anthropogenic greenhouse gases, and internal redistributions. Here, we give an overview of climate research in the context of Earth's energy flows and make the case for improved observations of total energy as a more physically robust metric of climate change than the commonly used surface temperature record.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)351-357
Number of pages7
JournalSurveys in Geophysics
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2012

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgments I am grateful to Norman Loeb, Mark Ringer and Peter Stott for useful discussions on this work. Comments from Kevin Trenberth and an anonymous reviewer helped to improve the manuscript. This work was supported by the UK Joint DECC/Defra Met Office Hadley Centre Climate Programme (GA01101) and the European Community’s 7th framework programme (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement No. GA212643 (THOR: ‘‘Thermohaline Overturning—at Risk,’’ 2008–2012).


  • Climate
  • Energy
  • Ocean heat content
  • Oceans
  • Radiation


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